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Le prisonnier du son

Michel Chion

Programme notes

During the period when I composed Le prisonnier du son (The Prisonner of Sound), I was easily captivated by the sounds from loudspeakers and submerged in their abundance, from which arose the romantic idea to explicitly treat this impasse by more or less comic or serious episodes and by placing and directing a hero in the same situation. This was also a dramatic project in which the voice is no longer the vehicle of a text or narration but the incarnation of a character who lives and speaks in the present, who right before us does battle with sounds and is immersed in these sounds. The production of this piece was for me, paradoxically, a liberating gesture, as much in the sense of expression as in its duration and its sonic orchestration.

It is this form of the monodrama, excluding the dialogue between two voices and situating the human individual in a world of sounds, which I called an electroacoustic melodrama or concrète melodrama, and returned to this several times after with Diktat in 1979, Tu in 1977, La Tentation de saint Antoine, in 1984, and Nuit noire, in 1985. But while Flaubert served as librettist (involuntarily) for La Tentation…, all of the text of Le prisonnier du son was, if one could say, ‘orally written,’ in a face-off with the sounds, as if these very sounds were alive.


Le prisonnier du son premiered on May 19, 1972 at the Musée Guimet in Paris (France) during a concert organized by the Groupe de recherches musicales (GRM). It was reworked in 1985 to create this definitive version which premiered on March 22, 1985 at the Centre culturel Noroit in Arras (France). Le prisonnier du son was commissioned by the Groupe de recherches musicales (Ina-GRM), written, realized and performed by the composer in the studios of the Ina-GRM. Voice of the opening credits: Agnès Tanguy.


  • May 19, 1972, Concert, Musée Guimet, Paris (France)
  • March 22, 1985, Premiere of the final version: Concert, Centre culturel Noroit, Arras (Pas-de-Calais, France)
  • Composer(s): Michel Chion
  • Writer(s): Michel Chion
  • Year of composition: 1972, 85
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Commission: Ina-GRM
  • ISWC: T0030238915


Première partie

Générique [Credits]; Ouverture [Overture]; Monologue; Appel [Call]; Danse [Dance]; Réveil [Awakening]; Travail [Work]; Apparitions; L’usine à sons [The Sound Factory].

  • Duration: 16:01
  • ISRC: CAD509511210

Deuxième partie

Nocturne; Larsen [Feedback]; Apparition; Danse du n’importe quoi [The Dance of Anything]; Rencontre [Meeting]; Révolte [Revolt]; Cataclysme; Le Mur du Son [The Wall of Sound].

  • Duration: 18:49
  • ISRC: CAD509511220